I've always been a fan of Mecha type games. I loved the Mechwarrior series. Played them till the CD's were practically unreadable. When I switched over to Linspire Linux a little over a year ago, I wanted to find something similar to Mechwarrior that would run in the native Linux environment. At first I came up empty. Then, in March of 2005, I found DH Lore-Invasion by Max Gaming Technologies. It sounded like what I was looking for, and was available for Windows, Mac, and yes, Linux. I eagerly produced a credit card and bought it. I've played the game for 9 months now, and I can tell you it's one of the best purchases I ever made.
Lore takes place in the year 2163, more than 150 years after a nuclear strike on the U.S. and parts of Europe. It revolves around a conflict for North America between two factions. The Federated States, made up of the former United States and its Nato allies, and the Eastern Confederation, a revived soviet system comprised of Russia and its former bloc nations. Combat is waged using large robotic machines called Mechanized Assault Vehicles or MAV's for short. Unlike Mechwarrior, the MAV's have no pilot riding inside. Instead, the pilot is linked to the MAV via a neural net. If your MAV is destroyed, a new one is spawned, so play is nearly continuous throughout a battle.
The first time you run the game you are prompted to create an account. You simply enter you screen name, e-mail address and a password. After completing this step you log in. You then find youself in the games lobby, complete with an IRC. Now this is a really nice feature since it makes it very convienent to meet players, ask questions, and set up battles. You can also view player, squad, and faction statistics. There's a map which shows the current area's controlled by each faction and a section containing detailed information on the factions, MAV's, and weapons. There is also a list of available servers. Entering a server takes you to a staging area where you set up for battle.
Setup of your MAV is exceedingly simple. You are presented with 4 variables. First you select your MAV type. For the full game version you may select between scout, infantry, assault, and tracked tank. Only the first two types are available for demo users. Second is your armor. This is selected by a simple slider control. Move the slider to the left, you have less armor and more speed. Move it to the right, you have more armor and less speed. Third choice is you primary weapon. Fourth is you secondary weapon. Each MAV also has a third special weapon which is specific for each type. They are mines for scout, air strikes for infantry, flame thrower for assault, and automated turrets for tanks.
Excluding the special weapons, there is quite a bit of difference between the two sides. The Federated States or FS, lean more toward the high tech. They employ lasers and homing missiles which are available for all MAV types. The Eastern Confederation or EC, are heavily into munitions such as artilliary, dummy rockets, and vulcan cannons. Both sides also have a weapon called an Auto Cannon, which is employed heavily. Despite the differences in weapon systems, the capabilities of the two factions seems very well balanced. The winner of the battle is usually the side with the most skilled pilots.
Another feature available to all MAV's except for tracked tanks, is jump jets. The lighter the MAV, the higher and farther it will fly. Assault class MAV's use jets to negotiate difficult terrain or avoid air strikes. Infantry class can jump wide gorges and heavy terrain. Scout class can practically fly around like birds. Scouts have another feature to. The ability to cloak. They literally can become invisible. Very useful for sneaking in to capture an objective. It also makes this lightest of MAV's quite deadly when used by an experienced pilot. Fortunately there are ways to combat them. They have an energy draw when cloaked. If you pay close attention to your radar, you can usually spot them when they recharge. If they become damaged, they smoke. You can't cloak smoke. When they are close you can see their footprints. You can also hear them walking. This is where the sound is all important and Lore has excellent stereo sound. If a cloaked scout is approaching, you can usually determine from the sound where it's coming from.
Game play is fast and smooth. Information is provided via a HUD which displays weapons, ammo, health, energy, radar, and targeting reticle with Zoom. The controls are simple to use and the key bindings are easily modified even in game. Once you get the basics, it won't be long before your making spinning in air kill shots that would be the envy of a Hollywood stunt man. There are global and team channels for text communications and Max Gaming Technologies provides a server running Teamspeak 2 for voice communications. The Teamspeak 2 option really enhances the battles since it allows for instant coordination between teammates.
In addition to multi-player, the game comes with an instant action mode. This mode is very useful for getting acquainted with the game and it's scenarios. There are four basic scenarios in Lore. Team deathmatch, assault, raid, and capture the core. You may also select any map that is available in the multi-player mode, as well as the number of bots you want to play. While the AI for the bots isn't as intelligent as some games, it isn't that bad either. It has improved greatly in the current version and its performance is quite good on some maps. I like to use it for warm ups before playing multi-player and for staying in practice when I don't have much time.
A rather special feature of Lore is Comcent. As battles are fought, the outcomes are tallied by Comcent. This means that each individual player has an effect on the entire war. Individual statistics such as kills, deaths, suicides and score rankings are kept for all pilots. There's even battle reports available so you can review how you, your teammates, and your enemies are performing. In addition there is a quick reference map of North America broken down into territories. The color of the territory denotes if it is controlled by the FS or EC. Comcent really helps immerse the player into the world of Lore. It makes the game as much an RPG as an FPS.
Lore uses the Torque game engine which means it's very stable and bandwidth friendly. The graphics aren't HD but they are very good and MGT has done much refinment to the textures which is quite noticeable between the current version 2.02 and the previous 2.01. The nice thing is that you don't need an ultra uber gaming system to run the game at highest detail. A decent 3-D graphics card and Internet connection works just fine. MGT has also done a fantastic job of eliminating the minor bugs found in the 2.01 version.
The future for Lore is very bright as well. Early Alpha testing has begun on an infantry expansion pack which will add foot soldiers to the mix. Those harmless bombed out buildings most players are used to will soon be bristling with soldiers sporting power armor, chain guns, mortars, and jet packs. The soldiers will also be able to spawn jet bikes and 4x4's for quick getaways. There is an upgrade to the MAV weaponry and new infantry based mission packs in the works as well. This is sure to keep an already great game interesting for the foreseeable future.
Bottom line, Lore is a blast! It's constantly evolving and improving. It's simple gameplay will appeal to anyone who wants to just jump in and blast away. It also has an established core of players dedicated to the game and eager to make new players feel right at home.
Reviewed by [PBG]Slingshot